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Atherton: IMSA at “Crossroads” on DPi, LMP2 Class Structure

Scott Atherton: IMSA not ignoring DPi, LMP2 performance disparity…

Photo: IMSA

IMSA President Scott Atherton says they are at a “real crossroads” on the future class structure of the Prototype class, amid mixed views to potentially separate the DPi and LMP2 platforms.

It comes in the wake of a dominant start to the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season for DPi machinery, which have won all five races to date, despite multiple attempts to reign in the DPis to the benchmark global-spec LMP2 cars.

Atherton indicated that off-season development for several DPi manufacturers has raised the bar to a level where it’s now “very difficult” to balance the two platforms.

“Last year, if you look back at the results both in qualifying and racing, there was quite good parity and we expected that there would be some evolution in the offseason coming into this year, but not as much as has occurred,” he said.

“With all respect to the teams that are running in the P2 cars, the caliber and the resources and the capabilities of the DPi teams have reached a level of performance that has made it very difficult for us to balance the DPi back to the benchmark performance of P2.”

IMSA has made repeated adjustments to the DPis, to the point where Atherton said they have been pegged back “lower than even the lowest expectation.”

“That’s where it becomes a difficult conversation with our DPi partners in that we’ve taken them to a place that no one anticipated them being,” he said.

“We’re at a real crossroads now for where we go because if a team that had similar resources, driver talent, engineering talent, testing capability, etc came into the equation right now, it’s safe to say they would do quite well against the current level of performance we have the DPis at.

“We’re staying true to our word at least through the end of this season, but there is at least the investigation of alternatives going forward.”

Atherton, however, wouldn’t be drawn on specific solutions the sanctioning body is investigating. 

“I don’t want to tip our cards right now as to what the options could be, but it is an issue that we recognize that needs to be addressed,” he said.

“We can’t just ignore it and pretend it will go away.

“The good news is that most, I wouldn’t say all, but most of the LMP2 teams understand the situation.”

“Far Reaching” Ramifications in Split DPi, LMP2 Classes

Atherton said that several teams have approached them on the idea of splitting LMP2 cars off into its own category, which would then allow IMSA to restore DPi performance to its intended levels.

“That’s not a new idea, that’s been around from the start,” he said. “We made a commitment from that start that we wouldn’t do that.

“There’s been one team in particular that was adamantly opposed to that. The reason they entered the category was to race for the overall win against the best and the brightest, and that’s why they’re there.

“Time evolves, results evolve, things change. I think I’m stating the obvious when I say that that option exists and is under consideration, but I don’t want that to be the headline because you could have said that six months ago.

“We would need to be very careful in making that decision because the ramifications of that are far reaching.”

Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

57 Comments

57 Comments

  1. David

    June 25, 2018 at 8:36 am

    Let’s see how the European P2 teams do at Watkins Glen. That will
    show us how much of the gap is due to the drivers and resources of our
    IMSA based teams. If the gap remains then let’s give the P2 cars
    a weight break and more power. None of the IMSA teams take their P2
    cars to LeMans anyway. They rent a car from an European team when they
    go to LeMans.

    • Louis

      June 25, 2018 at 8:52 am

      They wont give the P2’s a weight break. Or a larger restrictorbecause it’s part of the agreement they have with the ACO where the P2 BoP is set by the ACO and IMSA does not touch it. That’s why you have never seen a story stating P2’s have been given a performance break.

      • kv

        July 2, 2018 at 1:27 pm

        THE DPi/P2 gap is now nonexistent engine suppliers need to be involed like Cosworth,ilmor,to create a market !

    • Andy Flinn

      June 25, 2018 at 9:58 am

      David, the United Autosports LMP2 finished fourth at Daytona and fifth at Sebring.

      The Jackie Chan LMP2 finished fifth at Daytona.

      How did these cars do at Le Mans a week ago?

      The United Autosports and Jackie Chan LMP2s finished fifth and sixth at Le Mans (and through disqualifications were promoted to third and fourth, respectively).

      The Core Autosport LMP2 finished ahead of these teams at Daytona (third) and ahead of United Autosports at Sebring (fourth). (Jackie Chan didn’t race at Sebring.)

      Also, I wouldn’t expect United Autosports to necessarily be the favorite to win at The Glen this weekend. The last time they raced there I believe was in a Grand-Am DP.

      Although, the new #85 Oreca LMP2 almost won the Watkins Glen race last year.

      So we’ll have wait and see.

    • Steven

      June 25, 2018 at 7:50 pm

      P2’s were able to compete last year just fine and JDC-Miller was competing for overall wins regularly. What’s changed? The DPi’s update every year while P2’s stay the same.

      Its a factory effort vs a worldwide spec.

      If IMSA wants to keep their LMP2 teams happy, they will have to make drastic changes as they were promised they could compete for overall wins and they have never sniffed close to running up front in almost one year.

    • kv

      June 27, 2018 at 5:55 pm

      CONSTANT BoP changes will destabilise the regs and raise costs,so cap costs at 20mil and cut out the political BS !

  2. William

    June 25, 2018 at 8:57 am

    Give the DPi’s more power. Put them in a separate class. Let LMP2 replace the PC class.

    • Matt

      June 25, 2018 at 5:08 pm

      Fron the fan standpoint, this is the best option. I want to see fast DPi cars that aren’t held back below the antiquated 600hp number. GTP cars in the 80’s had 800+ and 30 years of development have taken place since then. IMSA should also enforce a requirement that DPi cars be available for purchase after their first year. If privateers want to compete for the overall win, buy a DPi car.

    • Davy

      June 26, 2018 at 11:36 pm

      No. Segragating one small class into two tiny sub-sections is an awful idea. IMSA shouldn’t make the same mistakes as the useless ACO. Give the LMP2s more power and less weight, that is the best way forward.

  3. Tim

    June 25, 2018 at 9:52 am

    I would love that.
    DPI, P2, GTLM and GTD it would be like the old ALMS days without the PC class.

    Maybe even try to keep the P2s within a second or 2 so there is an outside chance at an overall win if there is issues for DPi.

    • Andy Flinn

      June 25, 2018 at 10:11 am

      Tim, you can’t have it both ways.

      The LMP2s are either capable of winning in IMSA overall or they’re not.

      If LMP2 teams are looking for an overall IMSA win, they should be racing in the same class with the DPis.

      I don’t see the ACO creating a separate class for the ICE LMP1s looking for “an outside chance at an overall win” (however extremely remote) versus hybrid Toyota in the WEC.

      Creating a separate category just to guarantee the IMSA LMP2 teams a class victory would be beyond lame.

      If the LMP2 teams want a separate class because they feel they need one, they shouldn’t also expect to win IMSA races overall.

  4. Old Trombone

    June 25, 2018 at 10:07 am

    Put Montoya and Castroneves into a Gibson-Oreca and see if the chassis can race at the front. Oh they did that at Petit 2017? And it can?

    And in the next development, GTD-Am drivers are going to be BoP’d with the GTD-Pro drivers by getting the pro’s to wear Sumo-Suits and beer-goggles.

    • Kurt

      June 25, 2018 at 2:13 pm

      Atherton did say that the DPI teams have had a performance surge since Petit.

  5. Andy Flinn

    June 25, 2018 at 10:16 am

    Old Trombone, pit strategy is also important.

    An LMP2 had a shot at winning Mosport last year.

    I believe this is the same LMP2 team that wants to race the DPis.

  6. JJD

    June 25, 2018 at 10:22 am

    I would not split the series, this would not be motivating for the P2 class. This failed when applied for the WEC, MotoGP and ALMS as well. Either mandate all cars be DPI and push the manufactures to sell cars to the P2 teams or why not have P2 DPI’s? Allow Oreca, Ligier, Dallara and Multimatic/Riley to develop their own DPI.

    • George 917-30

      June 25, 2018 at 11:20 am

      JJD – best suggestion today. I would like to hear how the P2 teams feel about this approach – could they afford it? Can they obtain parts (dampers, suspension pieces, brakes) to match the DPI improvements? Is there more reliable horsepower to be found in the Gibson engine at a small increase in cost? And are there really any more Euro or Asian P2 teams that would even show up for anything more than Daytona and – maybe – Sebring with more parity between the DPI’s and P2’s?

  7. Tim L

    June 25, 2018 at 10:34 am

    LMP2 teams already understand they are not racing for the overall. Their budgets are ~1/4th that of the DPi’s. There’s no shame in not being able to compete at the highest level with a spec car.

    Make LMP2 a Pro/Am category like GTD. Let the DPi’s have more power, downforce and technical goodies as well as 2 Pro drivers. The show will improve and all of the teams will be happier because it provides a market for their respective customer. There’s literally no downside.

    • Matt

      June 25, 2018 at 5:13 pm

      Well said. Faster DPi cars means more eyeballs for the series. Sports car fans are fed up with the ACO and WEC P1 class and in need of a better alternative.

    • Steven

      June 25, 2018 at 7:56 pm

      LMP2 is a Pro/Am category though. But we’ve seen that even the pro’s have no chance at fighting upgraded DPi’s this year. The JDC-Miller Oreca is a prime example. Simpson and Goikberg were competing for overall wins last year and now are fighting for 10th overall every race.

  8. Dave

    June 25, 2018 at 10:51 am

    DPi is not as rock solid as you might think. You have Cadillac, Acura, Mazda and Nissan. It seems more robust because everyone has multiple cars. It really cries out for another American brand or two, and a Euro marque as well. If one – or heaven forbid two – of them pulls out, you have a WEC situation.

    • daedalus

      June 25, 2018 at 1:41 pm

      I agree, at least one LMP2 team will bail if they can not compete for overall wins. Granted not all the LMP2 teams are front running material but it would be a loss for IMSA if teams like United autosports could not come over for the NAEC races and it only takes a recession for the manufacture funded teams to quit and you better have some privateer prototypes to fall back on when that happens.

      The problem was the they made DPI too free, if it was just styling and engines it would be easy to balance them but with all the bespoke running gear the DPI teams have the LMP2 teams will always be on the back foot in the corners and not all tracks have long straights for them too claw the time back with some extra hp.

      If IMSA makes all the DPI teams run LMP2 suspension and brakes it will be as close between DPI and LMP2 as it was in the latter half of last year.

      • Matt

        June 25, 2018 at 5:18 pm

        I think it’d be better to split the classes. With many manufacturers on the fence about P1’s direction, a cheaper, more competitive P1 alternative can’t really be overlooked.

    • John

      June 25, 2018 at 5:30 pm

      If Ed Brown didn’t foot the bill for the Nissan developments, it is unlikely it would have participated, so there are only three true manufacturer-backed efforts.

      IMSA just needs to do what’s best for IMSA, like the FIA is doing for the WEC.

      Both sides need to stop pretending that a unified formula is going to happen, either now, or for 2020 and beyond.

      The FIA realized DPis would not align with its priorities or that of its partners, and disallowed them

      IMSA needs to wake up and do the same, instead of pursuing the unicorn. IMSA teams that want to participate in the LM24 will still find a way, as they always have.

      While these two do share a lot of common ground, and much for than say F1 and IndyCar, it still makes about as much sense as trying to unify the latter two.

  9. jason

    June 25, 2018 at 11:29 am

    I think a pro/am proto category could still get is in trouble with crashes and entanglements like LMPC. Let the pro/am teams go to GTD if they don’t like how things are going in prototype.

    • Rus'L

      June 25, 2018 at 12:49 pm

      But LMP2 is already essentially a Pro-Am category. How many teams have a Pro-Pro lineup?

    • Matt

      June 25, 2018 at 5:19 pm

      P2 is already esstentially a Pro/Am catagory in everything but name.

      • Anthony Thomas

        July 1, 2018 at 12:02 am

        Exactly and their is your problem. ACO looking for a problem to fix by limiting chassis design to their cronies and a single engine which smacks of Indy Car pre-merger.

        Then it comes down to who wants to pay front line drivers to team with the Am in the lineup.

        In the US since regulations for chassis and engine development are fixed they are automatically at a disadvantage.

        Like the increase in reliability and pace from Mazda was a shock or surprise to anybody.

        No easy fix here, how many P2 teams ran at le mans anyway in the same car they run in the States?

  10. RobertB

    June 25, 2018 at 11:33 am

    Is there any reason why IMSA can’t eventually switch LMP2 to their “version” and BOP them to keep up with the DPi? Isn’t that what they did to GTD? Unless I’m mistaken, those aren’t 100% GT3 cars.

    • Rus'L

      June 25, 2018 at 12:50 pm

      The real question is exactly what is their agreement with the ACO concerning LMP2 cars and how breakable is that agreement?

    • daedalus

      June 25, 2018 at 1:55 pm

      Not possible without new engines for LMP2. The gibson was designed with a 600hp target by the ACO and thats what they built, it was designed as a spec engine from the start and to only have to compete with itself. There is a larger capacity gibson that is used in LMP1 but I doubt many LMP2 teams will want the added cost of buying new engines. As a result its not possible to BOP the LMP2s as there is almost no hp head room, ditto for weight as well as they are already near their minimum weight.

      With regards to GT3 they are 100% GT3 cars but they run to IMSAs own custom BOP rather than the SRO BOP used around the world for most GT3 series like PWC,Blancpain,british GT etc. The GTD cars are about 30-50hp down compared to the SRO BOP so that they do not compete with the GTLM cars.

      • RobertB

        June 25, 2018 at 2:22 pm

        Ah. I didn’t realize there was no wiggle room with the engine. Thanks for the explanation. I couldn’t remember the specifics with GTD, other than Hindy and Marshall Pruett having a mild argument about it on their show. Hindy’s argument was that if IMSA was going to embrace GT3, it should just be GT3 and not put their own flavor on it with minor changes. Or whatever.

        • daedalus

          June 26, 2018 at 5:53 am

          When GT3 cars were first introduced into GTD and they were competing with the old Grand Am cars they had to run IMSA spec rear wings and windscreen bars but since GTD has gone all GT3 for the last few years these requirements have been dropped.

          • Andy Flinn

            June 26, 2018 at 7:16 am

            Yeah, embrace full GT3 spec and IMSA was promised a flood of new teams and cars.

            That hasn’t happened in IMSA or PWC.

  11. Jenner

    June 25, 2018 at 11:58 am

    I called this a year ago. Penske, Joest, Taylor, Acura, Mazda, Cadillac equals $$$$$$$$ put into testing, R & D, development.

    How could IMSA not see this coming?

    • Andy Flinn

      June 26, 2018 at 7:22 am

      You called what?

      An IMSA LMP2 alternative to WEC LMP2 only with variety in terms of engines, bodywork and chassis (Caddy, Nissan, Acura, Dallara, Ligier, Oreca) in winners circle?

      Congratulations!

      • Curtis

        June 26, 2018 at 9:56 am

        Andy, do you read the articles before you spew your comments?

        Jenner is referring to the predicament IMSA is in with DPI blowing away P2 cars away on race day and how they’re having difficulties balancing the two classes of cars.

        I agree, Penske, Joest up’ed the game and costs to race in IMSA if you want to compete up front. Don’t forget, paying for top flight drivers is part of the budget too.

  12. Change it up

    June 25, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    Better idea, if the ACO wants IMSA to conform on the same LMP1 format how about the ACO conform their LMP2 format to DPi? Allow IMSA to control the new LMP2/DPi class in the WEC/ELMS/ALMS. Bring the LMP2 cars up to speed with DPi or just phase it over to DPi over time. This could easily be tested at the start of IMSA’s season next year as well as be integrated in the WEC at the 24 hours of Le Mans and be fully integrated in the 2020 season. This would be a perfect opportunity for a DPi car to contest in the 24 hours of Le Mans in the new P2 format. The P2 format can stay as the prototype class to keep prototypes from being completely phased out to hypercars.

    • Change it up

      June 25, 2018 at 12:10 pm

      The WEC gets to promote their technology advanced vehicles (LMP1), IMSA gets to keep and promote their cost effective prototypes (DPi/LMP2), teams from Europe still get to participate in the IMSA NAEC, and IMSA teams get to contest in the 24 hours of Le Mans or other WEC/ELMS/ALMS events.

      • Dave

        June 25, 2018 at 12:44 pm

        I understand what you are proposing from a reciprocal racing standpoint, but IMSA would be “gaining” a second class standard in exchange for its top class and the promise of a P1 top class that will have a $30 million dollar-ish budget for no known participants as of right now. If the new FIA regs end up being generally accepted, you will lose the manufacturers from DPi anyway and the P2 guys will still be competing for the top in the second class. I don’t see any of the 4 manufacturers staying in DPi if the new P1 is workable.

        • Change it up

          June 25, 2018 at 12:53 pm

          maybe they keep P1 out of IMSA. I know Ford only wants to be involved in P1 if IMSA is on board. What is going to become of LMP2 once the hypercars take over? Would make sense for the WEC to allow DPi in LMP2

        • haskellb

          June 25, 2018 at 1:45 pm

          Except that all of the DPI manufacturers have said they are not interested in LMP1 due to the still too high budget.

          • TF110

            June 25, 2018 at 2:44 pm

            More like they are cheap and don’t want to be bothered buying a new car/chassis. They feel rebadged lmp2’s are great but for some reason rebadged lmp/gtp cars aren’t. It’s like they prefer the bop lottery imsa uses so everyone gets a chance to win instead of making a good car and earning the win. From the rough draft rules for the next gen lmp1, all they need to do is make a car that is in a performance window and they should be fine. They even have the same dpi chassis makers saying that they are looking forward to the next gen rules to make a car.

            Imo, they should bump dpi up to the speed of the private lmp1s. Lmp2 can win their own class. DPi is too fast and holding them back is pointless because they are still winning every race regardless of their negative bop.

  13. Joedirt321

    June 25, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    What if G-drive and Alpine Signatech Matmut come race in imsa, for one race with thier ace drivers? Im of the opinion that thinks drivers of IMSA P2 teams are not up to par with DPi drivers.

    Fair to say?

    • juneracer

      June 26, 2018 at 7:32 am

      i think the Conti tire is so different to the LMP2 options of Michelin and Dunlop that the part time races struggle. and the state side tracks aren’t F1 tracks. next year with Michelin and no Conti things could even up a bit.

  14. Mike

    June 25, 2018 at 2:54 pm

    It’s simple IMO. Make DPI and LMP2 separate classes.

    • Andy Flinn

      June 26, 2018 at 7:26 am

      Mike, it’s not simple.

      Not all of the IMSA LMP2 teams WANT to race in a separate class.

      • Tim L

        June 26, 2018 at 10:59 am

        Sources? I think you’ll find they actually do.

        • Old Racer

          June 26, 2018 at 6:07 pm

          Just to be clear. Budgets for LMP2 are not sustainable for a 2nd tier class. LMP2 is multiples more expensive than the old PC class. There are a couple rich guys that will pay for a trophy in LMP2 as a second level class but not many. No serious teams will pay the cost of an LMP2 season to run for a “B” trophy. If they split the classes LMP2 will die. All of you hallucinating that they can split the classes and have a competitive LMP2 class don’t understand the economics of IMSA racing. You will drive all the serious privateers out of IMSA and you will end up with two or three competitive DPi teams-at least for a year or so. And those few DPi teams will never quit trying to get a BOP advantage. And when they change CEOs or experience a downturn in the market they will leave. It isn’t that complicated.

  15. Mark - Toronto

    June 25, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    The underlying challenge is that the Dpi package is not available as a customer car. As long as privateers are essentially restricted to a P2 package we’re going to have this problem. The cars are not just ‘apples & oranges’, so are the teams running them. If you’re trying to balance a package to a benchmark that, is itself typically run by teams with lower resources, then the lower common denominator becomes that benchmark.

    I don’t know where we go from here. I think back to the days where a Camel Lights car was an option for a team looking to go prototype racing on a lower budget. But none of them expected to win overall. If they did and the budget allowed, a 962 was available as a customer car for the GTP class. We all know the challenges of relying on OEMs to sustain a series. I believe the only way forward for both that challenge, and the inclusion of privateers at the top level is to mandate that after a specified period, an OEM must offer a DPi as a customer car within a set pricing structure.

    Keep the generic P2 car as a lower budget class. Yes, that means we lose overseas P2 teams at NAEC events if they want to contend for an overall win. We ‘d also lose the ability for an IMSA team to contend for an overall win here and run at Le Mans. But those participation options seem tenuous at best.

    Who knows where this will go with the new proposed WEC regulations. If IMSA and the OEMs decide to adopt the new class “as is”, that would likely force out privateers on budget alone, even if customer cars were available. If they continue with a variation of the current P2 based DPi concept, we’re in the same situation as now. Either way the privateer challenge is not going away.

  16. Renz

    June 25, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    They should have worked harder with the ACO on getting a global LMP1 platform that everyone could use moving forward. All of the DPI’s are basilly LMP1’s, which should be quicker than the LKMP2’s.

    I am definitely OK with there being a class setup like ALMS:
    DPI
    LMP2
    GTPRO
    GTD-AM

  17. Jerry Higgins

    June 25, 2018 at 5:43 pm

    They sure figured out how to destroy the GT classes,why can’t you jack asses go back the way it was in the camel T days when the stands were full,and so was the grid

  18. The voice of reason

    June 25, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    Que up some Bone Thugs…

  19. NaBUru38

    June 25, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    There’s about a dozen cars in the Prototype class, and people propose splitting the class? That’s insane. IMSA shouldn’t recreate the ALMS prototype class structure, where each car gets a podium.

  20. Fernando

    June 25, 2018 at 11:22 pm

    IMSA must stop following the ACO. If they don’t, the series will be destroyed. Look at the past. Scott A “vision” is delusional. He killed ALMS. Instead of pegging back the DPI’s, allow the LMP2’s to get close to the DPI’s. Then you will have more LMP2 teams joining and you might even get full season entries from Europe. We can go back to the gold days of IMSA. But IMSA needs to stop following the ACO.

  21. Slicks in the wet

    June 26, 2018 at 9:44 am

    Just start the P2 cars with a two lap lead.

    Endurance bracket racing!

  22. N8

    June 26, 2018 at 10:00 am

    I’m not sure the balance is as far away as it seems. Daytona, Sebring, Long Beach and Detroit all require a specific suspension setup that is not available to P2 teams. Mid-O is the only traditional track IMSA has run at this year where the P2 shock package is suitable. There, we saw P2 cars in amongst the DPi’s. It will be interesting to see where the gap is from here on out as we have only natural terrain racing circuits left this season. If they’re able to compete, a case could be made for an IMSA spec suspension package to help these teams out in the first half of the season.

    • Sir Skidsalot

      June 27, 2018 at 9:31 am

      You are right, it will be interesting to see if the P2 guys are more competitive at a place like Watkins Glen this weekend.

      It sounds like the DPi guys are doing more tuning and tweaking than the formula was supposed to allow. IMSA should have nipped their spending in the bud and hold true to the original agreement of a P2 baseline.

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